Just as Wellington said that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, so it might be said that John McCain won the 2008 presidential election the day he introduced Alaska governor Sarah Palin as the vice presidential candidate.
When major party conventions wrap up, the respective candidates customarily receive a bump in the national polls. The parties spend millions, and especially in this post-1968 era of conventions, they produce world-class shows meant to broadcast their candidates in the best light possible. The Democrats certainly accomplished that, especially with the Athenian background for the latest secular Messiah-philosopher, Barack Obama.
No candidate has better national appeal or poll numbers than the days immediately following their party’s convention. The McCain campaign’s plan from the beginning was to announce the vice presidential pick the day after the Democratic convention wrapped up, with the intention of stepping on Mr. Obama’s post-convention bounce.
So who is Sarah Palin anyway? I must admit to a substantial amount of ignorance about the governor, but as Richard Spencer of takimag.com suggests, I too am willing to give her a fresh and open look. As an ardent Buchananite myself, I was pleased to discover that she picked him over Bob Dull in 1996. But conservatives ought to keep in mind, especially with Mr. Obama’s crash to earth, that no one is ever as good as they first appear.
Mr. Obama campaigned and won his party’s nomination because he represented the “politics of change” and was not going to play by the same old dirty Washington rules. Then he passed over the first viable female presidential candidate in favor of Joe Biden, a veteran plagiarizer and Washington insider.
Unlike the top of the ticket, Mrs. Palin does have solid pro-life views, attested by her Downs Syndrome-afflicted baby. Mr. Obama is still haunted by a vote in Illinois to allow late-term and partial-birth abortions, especially when the parents discover that they are pregnant with a Downs Syndrome baby.
Undermining everything Barack Obama said he stood for, John McCain took Barack Obama’s rhetoric and threw it back in his face. An Obama-Clinton ticket would have united their party and been practically unbeatable; but Mr. Obama could not take the heat from the Clintons and buckled. If Mr. Obama had selected Mrs. Clinton, nobody would be talking about Mrs. Palin right now. The barking from the Democratic side is not so much contempt for the Republicans, but contempt for the candidate they regret nominating. They are only howling because they know millions of Hillary voters will pull the red lever this year. The Democrats are furious, but they have no one to blame but themselves. As I said earlier this week, he blew it.
Mr. McCain capitalized on at least two opportunities: He snatched up a woman who could serve as an alternative for Hillary voters who felt disrespected by the media and the party establishment. He also picked someone who was not from the Washington club. John McCain is the long-time Washington resident, but the maverick lived up to his reputation and picked someone from out of town.
Some early reports and polls suggested that perhaps 3 million Hillary voters would break for John McCain, even before the announcement of his vice president. Some women will vote for a woman on the ticket simply because of gender. Others were preparing to vote for the Arizona senator to punish the Illinois freshman senator for defeating their inevitable candidate.
Joe Biden, who suffers from chronic hoof-in-mouth, will have to be muzzled. She may not call for it, but with Sarah Palin on the ticket, Republicans can finally play the gender card, a custom usually ordained for Democrats. He has plenty of reasons to be careful. When it first seemed like Mrs. Clinton was being snubbed by the media after the Iowa Caucuses, she wept and the women came out by the truckload to vote for her over the boys who were being just plain mean. As Pat Buchanan said, the sisterhood beat the brotherhood.
Following their Hollywood-esque production of their manufactured candidate, the Democrats are in denial over the situation. They will undoubtedly try to harpoon Governor Palin for not having any experience. But as the only non-senator on the ticket, Mrs. Palin is the only one out of four on the major tickets who has any executive experience.
On “McLaughlin Group,” Eleanor Clift moaned that the pick of Mrs. Palin was merely a pick of convenience to steal the Hillary vote from Barack Obama. One might want to say to Ms. Clift: Yes, you are right, the selection of Governor Palin may have been a bold attempt to entice the Hillary voters. But would you mind explaining how the freshman senator from Illinois, not yet halfway through that first term, was automatically granted front-runner status when he announced his candidacy? Was it all that experience as a community organizer or all the legislative bills that he co-sponsored, but did not author?
I must announce that I have no intention or interest to vote for John McCain. The very little that I know about Governor Palin makes me want to consider voting for her, but unfortunately the 12th Amendment forces me to vote for the president and vice president together, not separately.
So while he may have selected a phenomenal right-hand-woman, Senator McCain is still hampered by the neoconservative foreign policy which destroyed George W. Bush’s presidency. He is still open borders at heart, he still opposes tax cuts, and if his 1999 statement is accurate, he has no interest in overturning Roe v. Wade. Mr. McCain is, after all, a political animal who, like his Democratic opponent, says whatever he must in order to achieve his goals.
But politically speaking, the selection of Sarah Palin was a grand slam.